To borrow a phrase from Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) “It’s a funny world we live in...”
It really is, especially when we think of how much the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman was derided upon its announcement back in 2013... and here we are three years on, and he has been one of the most praised things about [Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice](tag:711870) (bar a few criticisms about his killing, of course).
With the praise raining it and fans clamouring to see him in his own movie, it comes as no surprise that this wish is swiftly being answered. At CinemaCon in Las Vegas, CEO Kevin Tsujihara has effectively confirmed that Ben Affleck has not only written a script with Geoff Johns, but he will also direct it.
As a solid writer and director, with a fine back catalogue of recent successes, this is definitely a win for the DC Cinematic Universe, and fans now eagerly await an announcement which will confirm its release date.
But what could, or rather should, we expect from the movie? As an aged Batman with a history of homicidal villains aplenty (which is implied through various Easter Eggs in Dawn of Justice), there is a plethora of opportunities to grow a new and dynamic Batman movie mythos.
Warner Bros! I hope y’all are paying attention, because here are some suggestions that will help your new Batman film please fans and film-goers alike!
1. Keep the Brooding, Fantastical Aesthetic
One of the things that were good to see in Dawn of Justice was Batman being reacquainted with the fantasy and sci-fi elements of the wider DC Universe, such as his mechanised armour and the Superman villain Doomsday. This is something that has been lacking in recent years, in Batman movies at least.
Before Dawn of Justice, audiences were familiarised with Christopher Nolan’s Gotham, which was based very much in a post-9/11 America, and lacked many aspects of what makes Batman appealing.
Don’t get me wrong, Nolan's approach, whereby he stripped the stories down to the minimalist essentials of Batman, was definitely a needed palate cleanser after the disaster of Batman and Robin (1997); it is a great trilogy and it was suitable for the time, but we don’t need to see a variation of it again now.
We need something new, the kind of thing that Dawn of Justice begun promisingly: a familiarly grounded world which looks similar to our own (albeit darker and grimmer), where aliens, mysticism and all manner of weirdness is possible. The tone in Dawn of Justice suited Batman (though Superman less so); Affleck needs to continue this and develop a Gotham which is inherently modern, though pays tribute to its comic book roots.
I’m not saying that every building needs to be as full-blown gothic as Tim Burton’s Gotham, or include as much neon and as many huge statues as Joel Schumacher’s vision, merely that Affleck and Warner Bros. need to ensure that Gotham is not too outlandish nor as pedestrian as what we have thus seen. Get it right, and they could develop something very special.
If they want a kind of starting point, they should look to Rocksteady’s acclaimed Batman: Arkham game series, which perfectly exemplifies this sort of aesthetic where crumbling stone spires standing next to gleaming skyscrapers (which somehow complement each other) that is inhabited by redesigned yet recognisable villains. And speaking of villains...
2. “Aggressive Expansion”
With the reveal of the defaced Robin costume in Dawn of Justice, rumours are abound that Ben Affleck will look to the Red Hood storyline for inspiration. To those less familiar with the story, it features the birth of a new enemy who has surprising links to Batman’s greatest failure- the day he failed to save the second Robin (Jason Todd) from being brutally murdered by the Joker.
As much as I’d like to see Jared Leto’s Joker take on Ben Affleck’s Batman in a new movie, it may not be the right time just yet.
Why? Well as popular as he is, and as integral as The Joker is to the Batman canon, overusing him immediately in every adaptation runs the risk of wearing out the potency of their relationship. Therefore, the new movie should look elsewhere for its plot and its villain.
Should it look to the movie back catalogue and reboot familiar faces? It would be nice to see Mr Freeze or Riddler done properly (they've been unused in movies since their Joel Schumacher days), but how about more recent antagonists who have never been seen before?
If Ben Affleck takes inspiration from the stories of the last twenty years, I can think of no better characters for his Caped Crusader to fight than the mysterious Hush or the forbidding Court of Owls.
Hush is an ex-childhood friend who now hates Bruce Wayne and seeks to take revenge upon him, and The Court of Owls are a chilling organisation that has shaped Gotham from the very beginning.
Both of them have connections to Bruce Wayne’s past, which adds even more dramatic depth to the story and they are perfect in helping to develop the interconnected DC Cinematic Universe that Warner Bros have begun to build.
3. “A watchful protector...a Dark Knight.”
Affleck has shown us just how formidable his Batman is in Dawn of Justice. He came across as powerful and aggressive in the titular fight and, regardless of Superman holding back, Bats did give him a solid beat down. Personally, I loved how he was introduced at the beginning with the traffickers...not so much the branding of the criminal, but the fact that the music and editing treated him as if he was the monster of a horror film.
He was fearsome, and it gives a suitable edge to the character. However, like the DC Cinematic Universe, some more development and expansion is needed.
We’ve seen the aggression and threatening nature of Batman, as well as his capacity for love in other movies, be it in Christian Bale's performance or Michael Keaton's. But in other mediums, we see more shades to him, some of which would be very welcome onscreen.
Indeed, for all his sternness and his obsessive pursuit of justice, Bruce Wayne does have a caring and nurturing side. Though he adopts a fearsome persona, there is a line of dialogue in the fantastic series Kingdom Come (by Mark Waid and Alex Ross) where Superman identifies their similarities and the core of Batman’s character.
Though their outlook and methods are different, his and Batman’s goals are the same: they help others so that they won't suffer as they have done.
This is evidenced by his training of the various Robin’s, to not only aid him fight crime, but to help them overcome their personal problems. There s other evidence in both comic form, not only where he looks after children (as seen below) but where he actively assists in the rehabilitation of his villains.
Notably, in the episode of the TV series Justice League Unlimited titled 'Epilogue,' Batman comforts a young and powerful meta-human as she dies.
For all his scariness, he can be a big kind softy to those who deserve it; seeing this attitude in Ben Affleck’s Batman movie would add more dimensions to the character and mature him in the audience’s eyes.
Also, in the comics, Batman earns the title of "The World’s Greatest Detective" for his deductive reasoning and fierce intelligence. Sure, we have seen elements of it in The Dark Knight when he is tracking the Joker prior to the police parade, as well as in Dawn of Justice where he acquires information from the accomplices of Lex Luthor, but its only limited to these brief glimpses.
We never can have too many heroes sleuthing after criminals...the hundreds of crime shows and versions of Sherlock Holmes are evidence of this. Seeing Batman investigating the scene of a brutal murder would be a fabulous inclusion to the film, and would show audiences that he is a capable crime fighter and more than a simply man with cool tech and a cape (not that that isn’t cool in itself!).
With Justice League Part One due on the 17th November next year, it’s not clear when we’ll see this Batman film; however the studio did reserve two slots on October 5th 2018 and November 1st 2019...could we expect to see him crusading then?
We can only wait, and hope!
What do you want to see in the new Batman movie? Let us know below!